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Flu Activity High In Texas: How To Stay Healthy Over Thanksgiving

Patch logo Patch 11/28/2019 Feroze Dhanoa
a man sitting in a car © Provided by Patch

Travel during Thanksgiving comes with an unfortunate exchange of germs at airports, gas stations and in your own relatives’ homes. With flu season underway and the virus’ prevalence only expected to grow, Patch spoke to an infectious diseases expert about the best ways to stay safe and healthy during the holiday.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu activity in the United States is continuing to increase but the types of viruses circulating and the levels of flu activity vary by region.

The latest data from the federal agency shows that, so far, four children have died from the flu this season, which includes one death in Texas. The data, which is current as of Nov. 16, shows that the virus is widespread in six states.

In Texas, the virus is regional in its spread.

However, the geographic spread of the virus does not measure the severity of flu activity.

The CDC uses a measure called influenza-like activity to measure severity. According to the agency, for the week ending Nov. 16, high influenza-like activity was reported in seven states and Puerto Rico.

In Texas, influenza-like activity was reported to be high.

Dr. David Cennimo, an infectious disease expert at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, told Patch that the current flu season is a bit more intense than it has been in past years. Cennimo said that while it’s hard to predict whether the flu season will intensify over the Thanksgiving period, that’s a definite concern.

With traveling, there’s more opportunity for people to come in contact with the virus, spread it and bring it back home, he said.

For those hitting the road, Cennimo said good hand hygiene is key.

“I would wash my hands a lot,” he said.

Travelers should try to avoid being sneezed or coughed on, and be aware of what they’re touching, Cennimo said. He added that most infections are spread more often by touching than they are by coughing or sneezing.

And while it’s not too late to get the flu vaccine, Cennimo said it’s too late to be protected by the vaccine in time for Thanksgiving for those who have not yet gotten immunized.

“However, influenza season will last for months more, so I would strongly advocate getting vaccinated now,” Cennimo wrote in a follow-up email to Patch.

According to the CDC, the vaccine takes about two weeks to take effect. The agency generally recommends that people get vaccinated before viruses start circulating but says it’s still beneficial to get vaccinated later in the season.

The flu vaccine is recommended for anyone 6 months or older, federal health guidelines say.

Those with certain health conditions and weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of getting the flu, according to the CDC. Adults who are 65 or older, children younger than 2 and pregnant women and women who gave birth up to two weeks ago are at high risk for the flu.

For children, the vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of death, the agency says. (See the CDC’s full guidelines on the flu vaccine)

Travelers who may be suffering from the flu or otherwise feeling unwell should try to cover their coughs and sneezes, and wash their hands frequently, according to Cennimo.

“As much as they could distance themselves from other people, it can help,” he said.

Cennimo said taking steps such as occupying an empty airplane seat toward the back or avoiding crowded areas at the airport like the bar can help.

Finally, Cennimo said the holidays are a good time to encourage friends and family to get vaccinated.

“Because them being vaccinated, being around you, also protects you,” he said. “So try to develop your herd protection.”

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